One of the big aviation stories out of Australia recently concerns the proposed startup airline Bonza. The airline wants to begin MAX 8 flights within Australia in the first half of 2022. But not everyone is convinced Bonza can get in the air, and certainly not within their stated timeline.
Rex’s John Sharp casts doubt on Bonza
Speaking at the Future Flying Forum on Wednesday evening, Regional Express (Rex) Deputy Chairman John Sharp said Bonza was being extremely optimistic. He said lots of airlines had tried to start up in Australia in the past, and more will try to do so in the future. But Mr Sharp says getting into the air is no easy thing.
“I’ve been in this game a long time,” Rex’s Deputy Chairman said. “And during that time, every couple of years somebody would come forward. Usually, they’re former employees of an airline or they’re a group of pilots who come together who reckon they can run an airline better than the management team.
“So they come together, they put a plan together. It sounds great, they are very confident. They make lots of publicity, and then the reality of the situation dawns on them and they just quietly disappear.”
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Ambitious timeline to secure an air operators’ certificate
Bonza targets having a handful of MAX 8s in the air by mid-2022. While the startup airline has solid financial backing and its founder, Tim Jordan, is a well-regarded airline industry insider, Bonza is yet to see any aircraft and yet to secure the all-important high-capacity air operator’s certificate.
“Bonza is claiming that they will be in operation early next year – that’s only three months away. And yet to do that, they’ve got to get a high capacity air operator certificate, and you won’t get that in under 12 months – if you can do it in that time. And so their start date I don’t think is ever likely to occur,” John Sharp says.
You could argue Mr Sharp has a vested interest in not seeing Bonza materialize. Aviation is a tough business and while most airline bosses say they welcome competition, you can’t help suspect an absence of competition would help brighten the average airline executive’s day.
John Sharp questions Bonza’s strategy
Bonza says it won’t be taking on potential competitors like Rex, and even larger operators like Jetstar, Virgin Australia, and Qantas because they’ll mostly stick to routes other carriers ignore. Again, John Sharp is skeptical of this strategy.
“They talk about operating in markets that are not currently serviced by Qantas, Virgin, or Rex … that’s a mystery to us as well. What are those markets? If they are worth servicing, Qantas, Virgin, or Rex would be in there doing it.”
The Rex boss also points out not that many airports in Australia can handle a Boeing 737 MAX, especially outside the already well-serviced capital cities and larger regional centers.
“Australia’s different to Europe where you have hundreds if not thousands of 737 capable airports. Those sorts of airports are not readily available in Australia.
“There are not hundreds of these airports, there are dozens of them. So where will they operate these 737 MAXs that someone else is not already operating? To say at the least, they are very optimistic.”
In response to Mr Sharp’s comments, Bonza’s Chief Commercial Officer Carly Povey didn’t directly address questions regarding obtaining an air operators’ certificate, but the CCO did confirm the airline planned to start flying in the first half of next year.
“This is expected in the second quarter of 2022,” Ms Povey told Simple Flying.
“Expressions of interest from Australian airports are due this coming Monday (15 November). Immediately after this, we’ll use the bids to start working through our final network for the launch of Bonza’s service.”